Notes to post before the weekend:
== From a text exchange Wednesday morning with ESPN reporter Shelley Smith, the subject of Sunday’s Mother’s Day column who later was hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms while covering the Golden State-San Antonio NBA Western Conference Finals Game 1 in Oakland:
Smith said doctors found a small blood clot in her brain as well as two others in her chest that can be treated with blood thinning medication.
“It was a scary 15 minutes,” she said. “I couldn’t talk or move my right arm or leg. And then it passed. Lucky I was right next to the Warriors’ training room. They were amazing.”
She said she expects to give out more information soon on a Facebook post soon.
“Mother’s Day was definitely a trip this year,” she said. “You never know how strong you are until you have to be strong.”
It appears she’ll be heading home today and wants to get back up to speed as the NBA Finals begin.
== A fog-and-phony-type show that took place this week in New York called the Upfronts, where networks pitch their hopes and dreams to advertisers in hopes of the reciprocation of financial support, prompted a column about it by The New York Times entitled “ESPN Is Betting on Big Personalities to Restore Its Fortunes.”
The newspaper didn’t actually interview ESPN boss John Skipper about that building toward the future in light of their recent dismantling of their human resources. Nobody in the media was allowed to talk to Skipper.
But in summarizing what’s at stake here and how crazy things can be framed, the story ended describing how the ESPN presentation was capped off by longtime anchor Kenny Mayne, “fitted with feathery wings and calling himself the Angel of Advertising,” coming onto the stage from above as other ESPN talent scattered to get out of his way. His grand entrance — with his white hair complimenting his wardrobe — led to a momentary tussle with the wires that had suspended him on both sides of his waist, and led to him remarking: “It’s a metaphor for the strength of cable. Look at it that way.”
Is this in Mayne’s contract? Perhaps if he doesn’t do it, he doesn’t have a contract like many of his recent fallen friends.
What happened amidst all that was ESPN announcing:
== There’s a new weekday lineup all lined up for ESPN and ESPN2 that includes Mike Greenberg getting his own show starting Monday, Jan. 1, live from 4-to-7 a.m. PDT, as it’s live in New York.
== With Greenberg leaving radio, Mike Golic will be teamed with Trey Wingo in that 3-to-7 a.m. slot, simulcast on ESPNU. Even as Golic’s son was melting down about it all.
== Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre get their own show starting Jan. 2 on ESPN from 9-to-11 a.m.
== Peyton Manning will host the 2017 ESPY Awards from L.A.’s Microsoft Theater on July 12, which ABC will again broadcast live.
There was so much stuff thrown up against the wall, USA Today decided to publish a “How Does This Affect You” story with even more moving parts to it, and Yahoo!Finance decided it need to break it down as well.
== On a day when Fox Sports also announced its new stuff, parading out Joe Buck, Alex Rodriguez, Troy Aikman, Jimmy Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan and Jay Glazer on stage to dance to a version of Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” and then be proud of the fact it created a show for FS1 called “First Things First” with Cris Carter and Nick Wright set for Sept. 5 from 3-to-6:30 a.m. PDT, it caused Ted Leonsis, the head of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, to reflect on how sports networks might do well by running themselves like sports teams.
It makes sense if you believe in the competency on who’s running the show. Networks can be more nimble with change sometimes, but their shareholders, like the sports team’s fans, ultimately can cause change with their wallets.
== One more extremely interesting announcement by ESPN: The first Los Angeles Chargers game of the 2017 season will be called on ESPN by Beth Mowins, with Rex Ryan as the analyst. That Chargers-Broncos game in Denver is the back end of the Sept. 11 opening-night Monday doubleheader.
It means Mowins, who also has a new multiyear extension to remain with ESPN calling college football play-by-play, will become the first female announcer to call a NFL regular-season game since Gayle Sierens did it for NBC in 1987 (a regional game on the last Sunday of the season). As L.A. saw last fall, Mowins called Oakland Raiders’ TV exhibition games and handled it deftly.
As Sierens told the New York Daily News: “Beth’s been doing play-by-play for 20 years (and is) so much more prepared than I was to wear that crown as the first. … She is the real deal. There’s no publicity stunt, this is not something somebody’s doing for ratings. They’re doing this because she knows her stuff inside out, and she will be fabulous when she does this game.”
And as Sally Jenkins writes in the Washington Post:
Why should it matter if women break into play-by-play? Not for political correctness, let’s be clear on that point. Political correctness only kills interest and discussion; it doesn’t enhance it. The goal for ESPN isn’t correctness; it’s viewership, particularly at a time when its subscribers are cord-cutting. They’re not doing this to make a point; they’re doing it for an audience. And to grow audience they have to kill old notions, which die hard.
Broadcasting should be a job for which anyone can develop the traits and skills, regardless of who they are. All it requires is a large capacity for homework, and a lot of learned technical expertise. The fact that it has been a genetic sinecure for so long has not resulted in lot of surprising or crackling television. What will be crackling and surprising is hearing Mowins work with Rex Ryan, how their voices and observations flow and intertwine.
There is a broader perspective worth articulating here.
== The first of 25 Sparks games for the 2017 coverage on Spectrum SportsNet is Friday’s game from Staples Center against Washington at 7:30 p.m. A half-hour pregame with Jamie Maggio, Chris McGee and Cynthia Cooper-Dyke leads into it. Jim Watson returns on play-by-play but since he’s on a USC-Oregon baseball assignment, Ann Marie Anderson will call the opener with Mary Murphy as the analyst and Kelli Tennant as the sideline reporter.
So there’s your all-female team on a WNBA broadcast. Anyone else have that?
== NBC’s coverage of Saturday’s 142nd Preakness Stakes (2 p.m., Channel 4) will serve as the pre-sports programming prior to the Ducks-Predators Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals (4:15 p.m., at the Honda Center in Anaheim).
Bob Costas and Mike Tirico host it, Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey are the analysts. Handicappers include Bob Neumeier and Eddie Olczyk, with reporters Donna Brothers, Carolyn Manno, Laffit Pincay III and Kenny Rice.
== Showtime will have another “All Access: Quest For the Stanley Cup” series with all kinds of behind-the-scenes coverage that starts Friday at 7 p.m. with episodes airing every Friday at 8 p.m. through the postseason. To those who don’t pay for Showtime on their monthly dish/cable service, the cable channel and the NHL have episodes available on YouTube, Sho.com, NHL.com and the NHL Network. The show is produced with NHL Original Productions along with Emmy Award winning producer Ross Greenburg.
MORE LINKS OF NOTE:
== Via the Fansided DodgersWay.com site: “A misconception that is continuously brought up to (SportsNet LA reporter) Alanna (Rizzo) is her relationship to Cubs’ All-Star Anthony Rizzo because of their same last name. Anytime she gets asked this question she laughs and lets people know they have no relation what so ever.”
Sure, that the relationship narrative to focus on.
== He’s the voice of ESPN’s SportsCenter promos. Maybe you should at last know his name by now. via Deadspin.com
== Some data about how fans have responded to some WNBA coverage on Twitter, as well as with daily fantasy stuff. Via ESPN.com
== Derek Jeter explains, again, why he started ThePlayersTribune.com. Via Techcrunch.com
== Seth Davis goes out laughing after a Sports Illustrated layoff that included a few others:
The big names in sports media continue to fall.
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) May 12, 2017
== Pac 12 Network event highlights for the week:
= USC baseball vs. UC Santa Barbara, Wednesday at 6 p.m., Jim Watson and Wes Clements
= USC baseball vs. Oregon, Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon, Jim Watson and J.T. Snow
== USC’s quarterfinal match against Boston College in the NCAA women’s lacrosse championships airs Saturday at 10 a.m. on ESPN3. If the Trojans win, their semifinal match also goes to ESPN3 on Friday, May 26, with the final on Sunday, May 28 on ESPNU at 8 a.m. PDT from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
— For The Win (@ForTheWin) May 17, 2017
==There’s that headline and explanation that USA Today’s “For The Win” has tried to repackage all day long as clickbait. It is as much ado about nothing as the popularly annoying LaVar Ball and perpetually irritating Kristine Leahy.
Having heard the entire exchange Wednesday morning on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd, the best way to summarize it is that it accomplished what Cowherd was trying to get: Friction radio. Cowherd, who said later he didn’t try to defend or assist Leahy as she and Ball had some sort of verbal exchanges made to sound worse than they really were, was also letting her twist in the wind through the whole thing. It’s a self-inflicted, very whiny Leahy move when she didn’t get the “respect” she apparently demanded in the situation. Ball essentially ignoring her comments, as most of us do during Cowherd’s shows, couldn’t help but finally address her after she got under his skin.
As it was reported Wednesday afternoon in the Sports Business Daily, the incident started when Ball, talking to Cowherd, was asked by Leahy, on the other side of the set to Ball’s back, how many Big Baller shoes had been sold.
Ball said, “Stay in your lane,” while putting his hand up toward Leahy and turning to Cowherd.
Ball: “I don’t even worry about her over there.”
Leahy: “That’s kind of disrespectful.”
Ball to Cowherd: “I don’t look over there because she scares me. Leave me alone. I’ll tell you: 400-500 pairs.”
Cowherd said Leahy is a “reporter, her job is to report.”
(Our insertion: Nice try, Colin).
Ball: “She can report to whoever she wants behind her.”
Leahy: “What is your problem with me?”
Ball: “My problem is you are a hater.”
Ball mocked Leahy and spoke in a high-pitched voice, “I would never wear a Big Baller shirt.”
Leahy said she “wouldn’t wear something as a woman” from Big Baller and added that if you “want to work with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, then maybe have something that appeals to women.”
Cowherd: “I thought that was a pretty good point.”
Ball: “It’s a good point because y’all friends. I’m not friends with her.”
As soon as it was over, we began counting down the minutes before someone would create a headline about it. Congrats, USA Today, and the 3.9 million clicks generated from it as of Wednesday afternoon.
The L.A. Times bit on it as well and tried to legitimize it as much as Daily Variety. And The Sporting News.
It gave FS1 stuff to talk about later, and even more to tweet out:
Here is my response to what happened today with LaVar Ball. pic.twitter.com/kPb83onpES
— Kristine Leahy (@KristineLeahy) May 17, 2017
“I asked him a question. That’s my job as a reporter. He ….”
Hold on. You’re a news-reader whom Cowherd hired to break up long pauses, but only when he allows it. You were never really a reporter, even back at your KCAL-Channel 9 days.
Adding context to all this, the Ball reaction apparently goes back to something she said about the way he raises his kids:
watch this video if you want to see the entire story behind the Lavar Ball interview today pic.twitter.com/O3UOx1gjuL
— #FreeLakeShowYo (@KiaBandwagon) May 17, 2017
Enough of this media-on-media crime.
Unless you want/need more Twitter response:
My biggest takeaway from today’s LaVar Ball/FS1 thing is that the seating arrangement on that show’s set is extraordinarily weird
— Pablo S. Torre (@PabloTorre) May 17, 2017
Today I have seen numerous mainstream media headlines that said Lavar Ball “threatened” Kristine Leahy-which he DID NOT DO. It’s this logic pic.twitter.com/8ufkXw7rnY
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) May 18, 2017
Kristine Leahy attacks Lavar Ball, Lavar Ball tries to ignore her, Lavar Ball apparently is the bad guy. OK media
— Johnny Jones (@johnnyjones59) May 18, 2017
Yes, I probably wouldn’t choose LaVar Ball as a Father..but who’s worse LaVar who promotes his family or the Media who use him for Ratings?
— Gary Radnich (@KRON4GRadnich) May 18, 2017
LaVar Ball isn’t low-hanging talk-show fruit. He’s grapes dropped in the mouth while lying on a divan. No news value in his comments.
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 17, 2017
Both ESPN and FS1 loved Lavar Ball, knew he was a loose cannon and milked every ounce of ratings/content/attention from him that they could.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 17, 2017